HC Deb 13 June 1974 vol 874 cc1832-41
Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)

Yes, Sir.

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 17TH JUNE—Second Reading of the Consumer Credit Bill [Lords] and of the Control of Pollution Bill [Lords.]

TUESDAY 18TH JUNE—Remaining stages of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Bill.

Second Reading of the Ministers of the Crown Bill.

WEDNESDAY 19TH JUNE—Progress in Committee on the Finance Bill.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named Opposed Private Business for consideration.

THURSDAY 20TH JUNE—Supply (8th Allotted Day): Until seven o'clock, debate on an Opposition Motion on Labour's Plans for Industry, and afterwards, also on an Opposition Motion, increased tariffs for night storage heating.

Remaining stages of the Ministers of the Crown Bill.

Second Reading of the Pakistan Bill.

FRIDAY 21ST JUNE—Consideration of Private Member's Bills.

MONDAY 24TH JUNE—Second Reading of the Railways Bill, and of the Policing of Airports Bill.

Mr. Heath

Perhaps I might ask the Leader of the House three questions. Five weeks ago the Secretary of State for Social Services made her statement that she wished to abandon the larger part of the 1973 Act by an order which was not debatable in this House. The right lion. Gentleman undertook to arrange a debate about it. May we have some indication of when that will be?

My second question relates to reports that the Government have now reached conclusions about the nuclear reactor programme. If that is the position, when are we likely to have a full statement about it?

My third question relates to Thursday's debate on Labour's plans for industry. May we be told what special parliamentary arrangements are being made to enable the debate to be answered either by the General Secretary of the Labour Party or by the General Secretary of the TUC?

Mr. Short

Dealing with the first of the right hon. Gentleman's questions, he is right that I promised a debate on this matter. I hope that it will be possible to arrange this in the week after next. I hope so, anyhow.

The right hon. Gentleman's second question was about nuclear reactors. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy will be making a statement within the next two or three weeks.

Mr. Lipton

May we have a progress report at an early date on the car park in New Palace Yard, which is now many months' delayed in its completion and is costing many thousands of pounds more than the original estimate?

Mr. Short

I cannot give a report on the car park. But on the landscaping of New Palace Yard we have had a Report from the Services Committee, and I hope to find time to debate this before the recess.

Mr. Tom King

The Leader of the House will recall that before the recess I raised with him the possibility of a statement being made by the Secretary of State for Industry on proposed plans for the nationalisation of further sections of industry. We have still not had a statement in the House. Are we to take it that now that the Prime Minister has assumed responsibility for these matters he will be making a statement before the debate?

Mr. Short

The Opposition have put down this subject for a half-day debate next week. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends will deploy their arguments then.

Mr. Cryer

Can my right hon. Friend find time to debate the proposed French nuclear tests? In view of the dangerous amount of atmospheric pollution which may be released, can he assure us that our membership of the EEC does not impinge upon our right to criticise those tests? In view of the fact that India has also made a nuclear explosion, is not the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons an urgent matter for a debate in this House?

Mr. Short

I cannot find time to debate the tests before the recess, but my hon. Friend will be pleased to know that my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary sent for the French Ambassador last night and made representations and protests to him.

Mr. John Davies: The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the First Report of the Committee considering secondary European legislation. When are we likely to debate the issue which that Committee found to be of such importance that it warranted a debate on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Short

The scrutiny committee, of which the right hon. Gentleman is chairman, has sent three orders to the House for debate. The first of them is of very great importance. I understand that the Council of Ministers will not discuss this again until mid-July, but I undertake that we shall have a debate on it before then.

Mr. Arthur Latham

Does my right hon. Friend see any prospect of our discussing Early-Day Motion No. 153 on the renegotiation of the terms of membership of the EEC, which has already been signed by some 89 members?

[That this House recalling and reaffirming the Resolution of the Labour Party on Common Market membership as follows:

'The Labour Party opposes British membership of the European Communities on the terms negotiated by the Conservative Government,

'We have said that we are ready to re-negotiate, and in preparing to renegotiate the entry terms, our main objectives are these:

'Major changes in the Common Agricultural Policy, so that it ceases to be a threat to world trade in food products, and so that low-cost producers outside Europe can continue to have access to the British food market;

'New and fairer methods of financing the Community Budget. Neither the taxes that form the so-called "own resources" of the Communities, nor the purposes, mainly agricultural support, on which the funds are mainly to be spent, are acceptable to us. We would be ready to contribute to Community finances only such sums as were fair in relation to what is paid and what is received by other member countries;

'As stated earlier, we would reject any kind of international agreement which compelled us to accept increased unemployment for the sake of maintaining a fixed parity, as is required by current proposals for a European Economic and Monetary Union. We believe that the monetary problems of the European countries can be resolved only in a world-wide framework;

'The retention by Parliament of those powers over the British economy needed to pursue effective regional, industrial and fiscal policies. Equally we need an agreement on capital movements which protects our balance of payments and full employment policies. The economic interests of the Commonwealth and the Developing Countries must be better safeguarded. This involves securing continued access to the British market and, more generally, the adoption by an enlarged Community of trade and aid policies designed to benefit not just "associated overseas territories" in Africa, but developing countries throughout the world;

'No harmonisation of Value Added Tax which would require us to tax necessities;

'If renegotiations are successful, it is the policy of the Labour Party that, in view of the unique importance of the decision, the people should have the right to decide the issue through a General Election or a Consultative Referendum. If these two tests are passed, a successful renegotiation and the expressed approval of the majority of the British people, then we shall be ready to play our full part in developing a new and wider Europe.

'If renegotiations do not succeed, we shall not regard the Treaty obligations as binding upon us. We shall then put to the British people the reasons why we find the new terms unacceptable, and consult them on the advisability of negotiating our withdrawal from the Communities'.

'An incoming Labour Government will immediately set in train the procedures designed to achieve an early result and whilst the negotiations proceed and until the British people have voted, we shall stop further processes of integration, particularly as they affect food taxes. The Government will be free to take decisions, subject to the authority of Parliament, in cases where decisions of the Common Market prejudge the negotiations. Thus, the right to decide the final issue of British entry into the Market will be restored to the British people'.

would regret any diminution of these terms in the course of the renegotiations.]

My right hon. Friend will recall that last Tuesday there was no vote because of the ineptitude of one section of the Opposition and the incontinence of the rest. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is desirable that at some early stage, beyond debating the issue of Europe, this new House of Commons should go on record indicating the terms of renegotiation which it wants to see aimed for?

Mr. Short

We have had a whole day's debate on this subject this week. I cannot find any other time for a debate before the debates which will arise as a result of the Foster Report. I have made a statement to the House on that and I have just promised the right hon. Gentleman a debate on the first of the three instruments which the scrutiny committee recommended to the House for discussion.

Mr. MacGregor

In view of the unprecedented revolt among ratepayers in rural areas this year, and bearing in mind the hardship and distress which will be caused to many of them, as well as the close interest which hon. Members are taking in the subject, will the right hon. Gentleman consult the Secretary of State for the Environment with a view to having an early debate on changes in the rate support grant formula for next year —certainly before decisions are taken on the formula?

Mr. Short

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about rate rises. I shall pass on what he says to my right hon. Friend, but I am afraid that there is little time before the Summer Recess and I cannot promise a debate before then.

Mr. Bates

Has my right hon. Friend seen Early-Day Motion 125 calling for a public inquiry into the James Hanratty case? This early-day motion is supported on both sides of the House. Is my right hon. Friend aware of the concern not merely in the House but in the country at large, and will he arrange either for an early debate, so that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary can be made aware of the feeling of hon. Members, or alternatively for the Home Secretary to make a statement on the subject?

[That, in view of the widespread and serious public doubts about the verdict in the Hanratty case and in view of new evidence which is now available, this House calls upon the Secretary of State for the Home Department to set up a public inquiry to review the case.]

Mr. Short

I am afraid that I cannot promise either a debate or a statement but will certainly refer to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Rost

When are the Government to find time to debate, or at least make a statement on, the social compact or contract, which vast sections of the country do not understand, particularly those people who have so far been on the receiving end of it?

Mr. Short

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment wishes to ensure a smooth transition from a statutory to a voluntary system, and before the Summer Recess he will be publishing his plans to do so.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the people of Scotland are waiting with some impatience, though confidence, for a statement from the Minister for the Civil Service about dispersal of civil servants? Is this statement likely to be made next week?

Mr. Short

I am afraid that cannot be next week, but I am hopeful that there will be a statement before the Summer Recess which will satisfy my hon. Friend.

Mr. Madel

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Secretary of State for Employment to come to the House tomorrow morning and make a statement about the dispute in the provincial newspaper industry? If it goes on, there will be consequences which will be as serious in Newcastle as in South Bedfordshire.

Mr. Short

Meetings are being held on this matter today, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and I think it better to await the outcome of these meetings.

Mr. Faulds

Are there any representations to ensure prompt delivery of my mail, including letters from my constituents, that my right hon. Friend could usefully make about the appalling postal deliveries in Central London? Further, can he take any action about the telephone service in the House, which is slipping badly due to staff shortages in the Post Office here?

Mr. Short

I shall pass on what my hon. Friend has said to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry.

Mr. Hurd

Can the right hon. Gentleman clear up two points about the announcement on the handling of European Questions which his right hon. Friend made on Tuesday? Can we take it that when Questions are tabled on European aspects which are the work of a particular Department it will still be the case that the Minister concerned at the head of that Department will answer the Questions and that they will not be transferred to the Foreign Office? Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed that half the Questions tabled to the Foreign Secretary are on Europe? If they have to be taken out, separated and penned together in the last 20 minutes of Foreign Office Questions, might we not have less opportunity to ask Questions about Europe than we had before?

Mr. Short

With regard to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I shall look into that. Regarding the first part, I refer him to my statement about the Foster Report.

Mr. Harry Ewing

In view of the publication of the document "Devolution in the United Kingdom", and the Government's decision to seek views over as wide a range as possible, does my right hon. Friend intend to arrange a debate on the document before proposals are formulated? If that is the intention, will my right hon. Friend consult the Scottish National Party, which appears to have gone on strike against the Scottish electorate and ensure that this matter is not shunted off to the Scottish Grand Com-mite but is discussed on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Short

I cannot promise a debate on this before the recess. But the consultative document has been published, and consultations will start in Wales and Scotland in the first week of July and will be completed before the end of July.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

In answer to a previous question the right hon. Gentleman said that there was little time before the Summer Recess. That implies both that the recess is imminent and that the right hon. Gentleman knows when it is to begin. When will it begin?

Mr. Short

It all depends on how we get on with our business.

Mr. Ferny Hough

Can my right hon. Friend say that when the statement on the dispersal of civil servants is made the news which it contains will be as gratifying to my ears as it will be to the ears of Scottish Members?

Mr. Short

Knowing my right hon. Friend's concern for all the areas and regions of Britain, I am sure that the statement will be as gratifying to his ears as it will be to the ears of others.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication when he expects to give an opportunity for the House to debate the O'Brien Report? He must be aware that it seems very hard to many of our constituents that they have to face imports of subsidised beef and are not allowed to resume a trade which the committee found to be perfectly within the public interest. Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that we shall be able at least to debate the report and that a decision will be made before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Short

I am afraid I cannot give that undertaking. I shall try to arrange to hold a debate as soon as possible, but I cannot give a firm promise that it will be before the Summer Recess. The undertaking which I have already given stands, that the trade will not be resumed before the House has an opportunity to debate it.

Mr. Dalyell

Since, like it or not, the problems of Ireland are ever present and may require many hours of parliamentary time before the next four months are up, can my right hon. Friend outline his plans regarding consideration of matters and legislation affecting Ireland?

Mr. Short

I am afraid that I cannot outline the plans, but if legislation is necessary it will be brought before the House as soon as possible.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

In view of the operation of threshold agreements, will the right hon. Gentleman urge the Secretary of State for Employment to make an early statement on the studies being made on the introduction of the Scottish cost of living index, as it is unfair to Scottish employees if their threshold is based on costs which do not apply to them?

Mr. Short

I shall pass on the hon. Gentleman's comments to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. English

One gathers that the Boyle Committee has now met. When will it report?

Mr. Short

I hope that it will report in the near future. Lord Boyle hopes to conclude his study by the end of this month, and it is hoped to report to the House before the recess.

Mr. Michael Latham

Do the Government intend to introduce legislation before the Summer Recess relating to the Misselbrook Report concerning labour-only sub-contracting?

Mr. Short

I am afraid that that will not be before the Summer Recess.